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signature from his father's probate papers when he was 27

signature from his will when he was 80

Isaiah was raised in a part of Chatham, Massachusetts, now known as Chathamport. In his Bible, Killey Eldredge says his father was born in Yarmouth, but contemporary evidence places the family in Chatham (see Elnathan Eldredge's biography page). The family moved to Darmouth, Massachusetts, between 1735 and 1739. Where specifically in Dartmouth has yet to be found, but certainly in what is now either Acushnet or Fairhaven, both set off from the original town of Dartmouth. He followed his father to a seafaring life. In his early adulthood he served on coastal trade schooners, eventually rising to master them. He first appears in newspapers as a captain in 1745 and this was likely his first commission, given that he was 20. His ship was the schooner Supply, which called in the ports of Boston, Newport, New York, Egg Harbor and Philadelphia in the summer of 1745.1 His next commission was on the sloop Molly in 1747 and 1748, followed by the sloop Rainbow in 1749.2 The name Eldredge (and Eldridge), very likely indicating Isaiah, continues to appear in shipping reports into the 1750s. The first names of captains were often left out, and available papers for that time also tended to refer to captains without the associated ship names.

By 1758 Isaiah had become a whaling ship captain. In that year he was master of the sloop Industry. French privateers were running up and down the East Coast of the American Colonies (this was during the "French & Indian" War) and snatched the sloop from its route to or from the South Atlantic off Cape Henry, Virginia.4 Two privateers, a brig and a schooner out of Mississippi were involved. Since Industry was "going much better than the schooner, [it] was fitted out as her concert [consort], with 2 carriage and 2 swivel guns and 20 men." The French schooner and the American sloop then cruised for more prizes. Industry's new crew, composed mostly of "banditti from Mobille and Pensacoula," caught two more ships. They sailed into St. Augustine, Florida late in June but were told by the governor there to leave, having an allegiance to the British who were provisioning them. What happened to Industry (and Isaiah and his crew) isn't said, but it's unlikely the privateers would have given up a valuable fast sailer. The whaling men must have had to find their own way back home, or were transferred to another ship at some point. There is a four year gap in the births of Isaiah and Sarah's children between 1755 and 1759. Isaiah was probably not at sea for all that time, but it does bring up the question of how long he was away. Their daughter Bethiah was born about 9 months after his adventure with the French bandits.
     When Isaiah retired from the sea hasn't been found. His son Isaiah is very likely the whaler who was at sea in the 1790s. There is a logbook for the sloop Tryall dated first from 1768 to 1775, then 1785 to 1797. The earlier trips were sometimes if not always up through the Straits of Belle Isle between Newfoundland and Labrador and the Davis Straits north toward Greenland. There is no evidence of a whaler with that name after the New Bedford paper Medley began in 1792, and Isaiah, Jr., mastered a different ship in 1792. Was the logbook used by others on other ships?
     Deed records call Isaiah a mariner between 1752 and 1768. In 1771 he was a "yoeman," which usually meant a farmer. His "homestead" was in what is now Fairhaven at what is now the northeast corner of Alden and Boston Hill Roads. He bought a 4 acre lot with a house on it in 1752 and expanded the property gradually to the east. He added 4 acres in 1771, and the reference to his being a yoeman then likely indicates he had left the sea and needed more land for farming. It reached the size of about 20 acres by the time he died. There is a small house where the farm was that dates at least to the first quarter of the 19th century. The style is very plain, but there is a fairly large and tall chimney in a place that suggests this may have been a "half cape" type of house with an end chimney, with an expansion later on. Sarah, Isaiah's widow, died in 1818 and her sons sold it in 1821 to Stephen Hathaway for $1,000. Hathaway sold it in 1823 for $1,400. Three subsequent sales of the property between 1823 and 1831 saw an increase of about $100 for each transfer. It may be that Hathaway enlarged the house, explaining the $400 jump in value and the outward appearance of the house stylistically. If so, Isaiah raised his six children in a tiny home. Given his apparent financial success which allowed him to invest in real estate elsewhere, this is unlikely, but the large chimney infers some sort of construction in the 18th century. Phineas Eldredge, one of Isaiah's sons, asked his brother Killey in a letter if he wanted to take over the homestead several years after their mother died there, returning in retirement to the place of his birth. It was likely where all the children were born after first-born Ruby in 1750.
     Isaiah was in "New Bedford" when he wrote his will in 1804 before Fairhaven became an incorporated town and mentions two lots of land in Fairhaven. In 1760 he was one of the major investors in the "20 acre purchase," which is now the core of Fairhaven village. He had four lots. One was bounded by what are now Middle, Union and Mains Streets, one half sold to Noah Stoddard in 1796 and the other to Nicholas Stoddard in 1798. Another lot is now 26 Middle Street extending west through the lot at 26 Water Street to the river. A second lot with water access is now 34 Middle Street and the Water Street lot immediately to the west. He sold the west part of that in 1761 to Abraham Davis and the east part, with orientation to Middle Street, in 1768 to Joshua Loring. The fourth lot was bounded by Middle, Washington and Main Streets. This is said to have been Isaiah's homestead. There is an old house there, much remodelled, that supposedly dates, in part, before the Revolution. It's possible he lived here while going to sea and used the Alden Road property as a farm while renting the house there. It seems odd that, as a sea captain, he wouldn't have a house in the village when he owned four lots there. If the family was there first, Isaiah, Sarah and their younger children may have moved to Alden Road when Isaidh retired, which at least roughly coincided with daughter Ruby's marriage in 1769 to Stephen Merrihew. Ruby was living in this house with her second husband, Jethro Allen, when Isaiah died, and they were given the house in Isaiah's will.
     In 1770 Isaiah bought from Richard Delano an eighth of the Windmill Lot and the windmill on it. That property was what is now Union Street where it heads west from Middle Street. Isaiah sold that right to Thomas Delano in 1797, and within a couple of years, the windmill was removed and Union Street extended. Richard Delano also sold him a portion of his wharf, store and warehouse. This is likely the lot labeled as his on a map of the 20 Acre Purchase, extending from what is now 16 Middle Street to the water about where Union Wharf was eventually built. The buildings were at the foot of this lot where Water Street crosses it, but it's not clear what side of the street they were on. Given that Isaiah was called a yoeman by then and in all deeds thereafter except one, why would he be buying wharf, store and warehouse rights?

Several of Isaiah's lots in the village of Fairhaven. He left the red lot, with a house on it, to his daughters. Ruby (Eldredge) Allen was already living in a house on the lot with her family, and that part of the lot was given to her. Two lots originally had waterfront footage, at least one with part of a wharf. On or the other of these is the green lot. Isaiah still had one of these when he died, and he willed it to his sons Killey and Phineas.

The lots at Main, Union and Middle and at the corner of Middle and Center Streets have houses that were built probably between 1790 and 1810. Isaiah may have sold one or both to people who then had the houses built. The second lot from Middle Street to the waterfront, midway between Washington to Center Streets also has an old house on it of less obvious age. The Jethro and Ruby (Eldredge) Allen lot has a much remodelled house that was likely the Allen's home. In fact, it is similar in its basic form to the Eldredge house on Alden Road.

Isaiah's will:

I Isaiah Eldredge of New Bedford in the County of Bristol and State of Massachusetts being at this time of a sound dispossing mind and memory which I am thanfull to God for and calling to mind the uncertingty of life in this present world and knowing that it is appointed once for all men to die I do make and ordain this my last will and testament in manner and form following viz

Imprimis my will is that all my just debts and funeral charges be first paid by my two sons namely Phines Eldredge and Killey Eldredge out of what is hereafter given them

Item I give and bequeath unto my well beloved wife Sarah Eldredge the use and improvement of all my estate bouth real and personall and all other estate of whatsover discripsion it may be of during her widwhood or natural life

Item I give and bequeath unto my two sons Phenis Eldredge and Killey Eldredge and to their heirs and assigns for ever all my real estate excepting one lot of land in Fairhaven of fifty four rods wheron Jethro Allen now lives to be eaqueally betwen them devided and to each of my sd sons one silver spoon a peace that is now in the house and marked ISE and all my waring apparall and all my out door movebles and all the depts due on notes of hand or otherways and moneys on hand that shall be left at their mothers deceasd they to be at the expence of settling my estate all is to be eaqueally devided betwen them they allowing their mother her tearm in said estate.

Item I give and beqeath unto my four daughters namely Rubey Allin Mary Terry and Bethiah Russell and Sarah Wood and to their heirs and assigns for ever my lot of land in Fairhaven of fifty four rods, whereon Jethro Allin now lives to be eaqueally betwen them divided Rubey to have her sheare lot of where the house is and all my in door movebles of whatsover nature they may be of to be eaqually betwen them divided tis my will that each of my sd daughters shall each of them shall have a silver spoon a peace that is markd ISE they allowing their mother the peasable improvement her tearm in them.

Item and I hereby dissolow and make voide all other wills and testaments heretofore by me made and confirm this to be my last will and testament and I hereby constute make and ordain my son Killey Eldredge to be my sole executor, to this my last will and testament in witness wherof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this thirteenth day of January one thousand eight hundred and four

Isaiah Eldredge

Tucke Damon
Ebenezer Akin
Nancy Akin
Barthw. Akin

May 5 1812 appd.

Isaiah's estate inventory:

An inventory of the estate of Isaiah Eldredge late of Fairhaven in the county of Bristol deceased appraised upon oath by us the subsrcibers duly appointed to that service by the Hon. Hodijah Baylies Esqr. Jude of Probate of Wills &c for said County viz

Real Estate

The homestead of said deceased with the buildings thereon siutated in sd Fairhaven 1000
One lot of land containing fifty four rods situated in the Village of Fairhaven 5406
One lot of land containing about thiry three rods and a part of a
[water?] situated as above 3507
total real estate dollars 1890

Personal Estate

11 chairs $5 4 tables 250c 1 case drawers $2 1 lookg glass $4 $13.50
3 feather beds bolsters & pillows $48 3 bedstead & cords $6 $54
9 glass tumblers 75c 1/2 doz cups & saucers 30c 1 pitcher 25c coffee pot 25c $1.55
1 tea chest & 4 cannisters 150c 2 tea pots 75c 3 sugar pots 30c $2.55
2 candlesticks 30c 1/2 doz bottles 25c 1 slate 30c iron dogs 75c $1.60
2 shovels & 1 pr tongs 75c 3 cranes & hooks $3 3 iron pots 150c $5.25
4 kettles 150c 2 spiders 50c 1 tea kettle 10c 1 bake kettle & skillet 50c $2.60
1 pr flatts 50c 3 tin pans 75c 2 tin pails 75c 1 tun? & saucepan 20c $2.20
2 peper boxes 5c 3 pewter platters 150c 8 plates $1 4 basons 50c $3.05
3 porringers 25c 2 earthen dishes 50c 1 1/2 doz plates 75c $1.50
1 doz bowls 50c 2 salt morters 150c 1/2 doz knives & forks 50c $2.50
1 can 25c 1/2 doz large & small silver spoons $10 $10.25
1 warming pan 50c 3 chests $2 2 wheels reals & winders 150c $4
2 churns 50c 10 empty bottles $1 1 coffee mill 25c 1 pr bellows 25c $2
2 window curtins 75c 3 wollen sheets $3 3 bed blankets $3 $6.75
24 cotton & linnen sheets $24 4 bolsters cases $1 $25
24 pillow cases $6 3 coverlids $3 2 bed quilts $2 $14
1 bed spread $1 3 table cloths $2 12 towels 150c $4.50
6 books 150c 1 Gunters scale 25c 1 pr steel yards 25c $2
1 brass scimmer 10c 1 poundg bbl? $1 2 washing tubs 50c $1.60
2 pails 50c 5 baskets 75c gin case 50c 2 chambers 50c $2.25

Isaiah's Gunter's scale, which he either made or acquired in 1750, passed through the antiques market in 2008. The photos below are of the scale, courtesy Paul Madden Antiques. It is 2 feet by about 1 5/8 inches.

[apparently in the barn:]

1 ton hay $20 1 hay fork 50c 1 shovel 75c 1 ax $1 $21.75
2 hatts $1 9 shirts 250c 6 pr trowsers $3 3 pr breaches 150c 5 waistcoats $2 3 coats $4 2 great coats $4 9 pr stockg $2 1 pr shoes $1 $21
cash $4.50 Jared Chase's note May 20th 1810 for $8 $12.50

total personal dollrs 217.90
total reas estate 1890
dollrs $2107.90

Fairhaven 3rd April 1812

Jonathan Nye, John Price, Barthom. Taber, appraisers

May 5 1812 returned & sworn to by Killy Eldridge, exr.

     Although his estate was modest, it was respectable for a man of 88. He and Sarah had 6 children who lived to adulthood, the last being born in 1771. Did they raise them in the tiny house that still stands on what was their farm site? Could he not afford to build a bigger house, or expand significantly to the one that was there when he bought the property?

The following is taken from his father's probate file:

Febuary ye of 20th 1746/7

Judg sir may it please you I being ye eldest son of Elnathan Eldredg latly dessesed and I being bound to sea and cannot tarrey at home this summer therefore I would pray you would give the letters of adminestration to my mother-in-law for their is no body else that can as I no of take it

Isaiah Eldredg

Sir may it please you you see that my eldest son will do nothing consarning ye estate and I being not capabel of comming over to you at presant so I would pray you would send me over your clark to give one letters of adminestration as soon as you can convaniantly for things are under defecul surcomstanses so wishing your honours helth and prosprity so remain yours to sarve you

Deliverance her x mark Eldredge
widow of Elnathan Eldredg...

children of Isaiah Eldredge and Sarah Delano:5

i. Ruby b. 23 October 1750
ii. Mary b. 24 March 1753
iii. Phineas b. 29 November 1755
iv. Bethiah b. 20 May 1759
v. Sarah b. 31 July 1761
vi. Killey b. 16 September 1764
vii. Rhoda b. 26 August 1766
viii. Isaiah b. 19 December 1771

vital records sources: Isaiah's birth appears in a Bible owned by his son Killey, published in (NEHGR?) (His full age at death is on a gravestone likely made at the time of Killey's death, since it's in the style of the mid 1800s and includes Isaiah, Sarah and Killey); his marriage is in the vital records of Dartmouth, MA (the Bible gives the day as 27), and his death appears in the Bible and on a gravestone in Riverside Cemetery, Fairhaven.

1. 29 Aug 1745, Pennsylvania Gazette, 2.
2. 4 Aug 1749, Pennsylvania Gazette, 2.
4. 22 June 1758.
5. Killey Eldredge Bible (see vital records sources).
6. One of the Fairhaven Village lots mentioned in the text above.
7. Ibid.

all text and photographs © 1998-2020 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted